One thing that has become abundantly clear to me over my
years as a writer is that the key to producing high daily word counts is
planning. Whenever I start a day’s work knowing where a scene or story is going
to go, the words come swiftly. Now, I still don’t often get 2 or 3 thousand
words out of such a day, but a thousand is generally a breeze.
Unfortunately, I don’t often know where I’m going on a story
at the start of a day. At least not exactly. Part of this is the nature of how
I have to write due to my day job. Some of my work, like my classes, are
predictable. I can schedule around those, and around the grading that results.
It still means, though, that at periods like mid-term and finals I can’t
maintain the continuity of daily writing.
Another work related issue is that much of my academic work
load is not predictable. The research committee that I’m chair of can go 2 or 3
weeks with no submissions, then suddenly get 6 in a single week that have to be
turned around. And I generally cannot predict when research and grant
opportunities might arise that I need to take advantage of as part of the
scholarship requirement for my job. These kinds of things mean that I’ve never
written a book that didn’t have at least one long break somewhere in it, and by
long break I mean at least 2 months and oftentimes 6 or more. At times when
I’ve ended up taking a break of a month or more, any plan that I had previously
developed for the work starts to feel very stale and unexciting, probably
because I’ve just thought about it too much and every nagging little issue has come
to my awareness.
The other issue for me, though, is that I seem to have an
aversion to planning a story out too far in advance. This is also about the
“staleness” issue. If I know exactly
what is going to happen, I just don’t care as much about the trip to get there.
And since I know breaks will have to happen due to my work, some of my lack of
planning is really self defense.
Some of my reluctance to plan, too, I’ve come to realize, is
that I’m still more of a reader than I am a writer. Who wants to read a story
where you know everything that is going to happen and can predict every twist
and turn? I started out writing, not with any thought to publication, but to
tell myself the stories that were bursting in my head. For the most part, that
is still exactly how I feel today. I don’t want to know what comes next too far
ahead. I want that joy of discovery. How about you?
Labels: day job., high word counts